Fresh Pretty Cure! is the fourth separate continuity in the Pretty Cure Franchise, and the sixth season of Pretty Cure to be aired since the franchise’s inception. It follows the lives of three girls: Love Momozono, Miki Aono, and Inori Yamabuki. The three are childhood friends, but eventually become Pretty Cure. With their powers, they fight against an evil organization named Labyrinth, who seek to take over every single parallel world. At the same time, they try to balance their superhero responsibilities with their daily lives, which primarily involves dance lessons with a popular idol group Trinity.
Meanwhile, Labyrinth seeks to control the human world by causing commotion with summoned monsters called Nakewameke, which results in filling the despair meter. In order to control all of the parallel worlds, they need to capture a mysterious item known as Infinity. With the help of Tart and Chiffon from the SweetsKingdom, Love, Miki, and Inori become Cures Peach, Berry, and Pine, respectively.
An intense story arc occurs halfway through the season, which involves a character named Setsuna Higashi, who is revealed to become the fourth Pretty Cure, Cure Passion. Fresh Pretty Cure! is the first series to be produced with a revamped production philosophy, which included a significant art style change, composer, and a well-known tradition in Pretty Cure: computer-animated end theme dance sequences. It is also around this time that Toei produced the first Pretty Cure crossover movie series, Pretty Cure All-Stars Deluxe.
Love Momozono/Cure Peach: Love is a clumsy, yet energetic and selfless girl. She has a love for dancing, and looks up to her idol, Miyuki from the dance troupe Trinity. After saving her from a Nakewameke attack, Love is given the opportunity to take dance lessons from Miyuki, which she does alongside her childhood friends Miki and Inori. She’s also childhood friends with Daisuke Chinen, a classmate at school who has a crush on her. As Cure Peach, she is a hard-working leader who at times struggles to balance her responsibilities towards school, dance lessons, and being a PreCure.
Miki Aono/Cure Berry: Miki is a stylish, confident girl who aspires to become a fashion model. She’s naturally smart and athletic, and joins Love’s dance troupe to stay in shape for her career. She lives with her divorced mother, while her brother lives elsewhere with her father. She always puts her friends ahead of herself, but often expresses that through tough love, being the strict person in her group of her friends. As Cure Berry, she is a strong fighter, but sometimes lacks confidence in her abilities.
Inori Yamabuki/Cure Pine: Affectionally called Buki by her friends, Inori is a studious girl who studies for the sake of her dream of becoming a vetrinarian like her parents. She is always there for her friends, and even though she doesn’t show the same interest in dance as Love (and to a lesser extent, MikI), she takes up Love’s offer to join her dance group. Despite her affinity towards animals, she has a rocky relationship with Tart at first because of her fear of ferrets. As Cure Pine, she is a well-rounded fighter, but offers a support role with her Healing Prayer, which is the first spell in fresh that is used to purify the Nakewameke, rather than vanquishing them outright.
Setsuna Higashi/Cure Passion: Setsuna is the civilian form of Eas, one of the servants of Moebius from Labyrinth. Initially, Eas often takes the guise of Setsuna Higashi in order to feign friendship with Love, in an attempt to infiltrate the group and steal their transformation devices. In her midway arc, she is given the opportunity to summon powerful Nakewamake at the cost of endangering her own life. After Cure Peach reaches out to her plight, Eas eventually is re-awakened as Cure Passion, who works to redeem herself after her numerous wrongdoings as a denizen of Labyrinth.
Fresh Pretty Cure involves two main motifs, the first involving fruits, and the second involving playing card suits. The fruits motif is used for theme-naming the cures themselves, where the playing card suits are mostly a visual concept brought out in their attacks; Cure Peach is hearts, Cure Berry is spades, Cure Pine is diamonds, and clovers are abundant throughout the town. The playing card motif is revisited in Doki Doki! PreCure, with Alice/Cure Rosetta taking on the role of the clover cure.
One of the recurring phrases in Fresh Pretty Cure is “Shiawase getto da yo!” which is Love’s catchphrase, and is tied to the idea of obtaining happiness. Fresh insists that people put in effort for the dreams that they have, which is portrayed through the hard work of the Pretty Cure as they try to balance their lives of being a PreCure with that of aspiring to become a dance group. Love and the others often find themselves unable to deal with that balance, as one always takes a toll on the other; as a result, the struggles that the girls go through are quite real, and the approach they take to trying to overcome hardships that affect both aspects of their lives is handled remarkably well.
Those who are interested in watching Fresh Pretty Cure (amongst other series) for the first time may be overwhelmed by the number of episodes in the series. Included in this section is a selection of episodes from the show that are not strongly dependant on understanding the main plot, but are representative of what you can expect when watching the entire series proper.
Episode 10, Tart is Inori and Inori is Tart?: In Episode 10, one of Soular’s Nakewameke wreaks havoc on the town by randomly making pairs of humans and animals switch bodies with each other, most notably Inori and Tart. Compounded by Inori’s fear of ferrets, this episode is a great combination of minor character development as well as manic hijinx. Nakewameke tend to cause all sorts of weird things to happen, and the Freaky Friday Flip is just one of them.
Episode 12, Everyone Change! The Crazy Wig Plan!!: In episode 12, the goofy villain of Labyrinth, Westar, makes a Nakewameke that gives people in Clover Town really weird hairstyles. This episode not only puts a nice spotlight on both Love and Inori’s respective fathers, but it also establishes Fresh as a show that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and does a really good job at it.
Episode 16, Horrific Culture Festival! Sounds of Footsteps at School at Night!!: This iteration of the culture festival in Fresh highlights the relationship between Love and one of her male friends, Daisuke. They share a few moments while preparing for their class haunted house, but a Nakewameke intensifies their newly exposed fears. Their relationship is explored further later on in the series.
Episode 18, I want to Meet the Pretty Cure! The little Girl’s Wish!!: In a very special episode of Fresh Pretty Cure, the girls are involved with a Make-a-Wish situation in which they meet a sickly girl in the hospital who wants to meet the PreCure. The promise they make with her is threatened by a Nakewameke, which is the source of tension in the episode. It’s a heartwarmer, but also an excellent example in reverse of how the girls’ lives are compromised by being a precure.
Episode 20, Dance and Pretty Cure…Which One to Choose?: Right before the major character arc involving Setsuna/Eas, the other girls are subjected to balancing the rigors of intense dance training and the physical demands of fighting as PreCure. Compounded by the new powers given to Eas, the hurdle that the girls have to overcome during this episode is remarkably effective in its weight.
Fresh Pretty Cure takes some getting used to early on, simply due to the inconsistent production values and overly cheesy tone at times; however, despite not taking itself seriously at all most times, it knows how to portray endearing moments, especially with regards to Setsuna’s character arc throughout the series. As is the norm for the franchise, the action in Fresh can get intense at times, and specific single episodes are ripe with fluid combat animation and flowing choreography.
The main strength of Fresh Pretty Cure, however, is the characterization of its main cast, who grow both as a team, and to certain extents as individuals, throughout the course of the series. Setsuna’s arc during the midway point is the highlight of the show, and even after she joins the group as Cure Passion, the development of her relationship with the other girls is a pleasure to watch.
If you enjoyed Fresh Pretty Cure, consider watching these other PreCure series as well:
Heartcatch PreCure! is the next series that aired right after Fresh, and is the second series in the Deluxe generation of Pretty Cure shows; just like Fresh, its art style is a huge departure from the older shows, and is the signature style of Yoshihiko Umakoshi, character designer for Casshern Sins, Mushishi, Ojamajo Doremi, and Saint Seiya Omega. Heartcatch initially features Cures Blossom and Marine, but character arcs for Cures Sunshine and Moonlight are of particular interest for those who enjoyed Fresh. While the characters do change over the course of the series, individual episodes focus primarily on side characters, who are always involved with the monster of the week.
Suite PreCure is a more-than-reasonable follow-up to Fresh, such that its character arcs for the girls who join are very interesting. Cure Beat’s origin is like that of Cure Passion, but the circumstances surrounding the awakening of Suite’s third PreCure are wildly different, given the unique setting in which the story is told. As the last series of the uniquely conceptual Deluxe generation, Suite tightly embraces its music motif and never lets go; every design choice is related to music, and is executed remarkably well from a visual and musical standpoint, even if the plot focus often strays during the second half of the series.
For those who enjoyed Fresh PreCure, but want to try out a different take on the franchise, then Smile PreCure is fundamentally different enough of a show to be a worthy follow-up without being too much of a departure from Fresh. They share similar approaches to theme and motif, as the fairy tale aspect of Smile is noticeably present, but doesn’t take over the show like Heartcatch or Suite. Where Fresh incorporates the last Cure slowly over the course of the first half of the show, Smile’s cast is present right from the first few episodes. As a five-girl team, the show’s abundance of characterization mostly comes from fully fleshing out their personalities within individual status-quo episodes, rather than subjecting them to the same extent of change like Cure Passion. Smile is a great show to watch if you loved the characters in Fresh, and want to see other interesting characters in the franchise.